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Resonance Records Transcends The Record Store Day Chase

Wes Montgomery's<em> Smokin' in Seattle: Live at the Penthouse </em>captures him in full ascendency, on tour in 1966 with pianist Wynton Kelly, bassist Ron McClure and drummer Jimmy Cobb.
Lee Tanner
Courtesy of Resonance Records
Wes Montgomery's Smokin' in Seattle: Live at the Penthouse captures him in full ascendency, on tour in 1966 with pianist Wynton Kelly, bassist Ron McClure and drummer Jimmy Cobb.

Record Store Day, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, is a consumer ploy in the guise of a cultural event. Or, depending on your vantage, maybe it's the other way around. Whatever the case, record stores across the country and around the world are happily (or gamely) bracing for impact: Record Store Day 2017 falls this Saturday, April 22, with a wave of exclusive releases, in-store appearances and other retail enticements.

Much of the advance publicity around this year's event has revolved around rock royalty: there will be two limited-edition David Bowie releases, as well as a 7" of two pre-Sgt. Pepper's songs by The Beatles. There are also dozens of 7-inch and LP releases from across the style spectrum, from Miley Cyrus to Meredith Monk.

But Record Store Day has acquired a special sheen for fans of classic jazz, mainly through the efforts of one tenacious record producer, Zev Feldman. One of his Record Store Day titles this year is Thelonious Monk: Les liaisons dangereuses 1960, an exceptional film soundtrack by the great pianist and composer, a joint release of two European labels, Sam Records and Saga Jazz.

And as general manager of Resonance Records, a Los Angeles label that specializes in deluxe releases of noteworthy but previously unissued material, Feldman has shepherded three more discoveries to market: a 1966 club date by the Wynton Kelly Trio with guitarist Wes Montgomery; a 1968 concert album by pianist Bill Evans, in a trio with bassist Eddie Gomez and drummer Jack DeJohnette; and a 3-LP set by bassist Jaco Pastorius, with his Word of Mouth Big Band. Each release is a gem, and for now they're exclusively on vinyl for Record Store Day.

"I thought that for the 10th anniversary, this would be one hell of a way to remind people that Record Store Day was also designed for jazz fans," Feldman said this week, between business meetings in New York. "This has become an event now that really speaks to our audience."

The Bill Evans Trio in 1968.
Giuseppe Pino / Courtesy of Resonance Records
Courtesy of Resonance Records
The Bill Evans Trio in 1968.

Resonance has been releasing albums on Record Store Day going back to 2012, when it put out a blue vinyl 10-inch, Selections From Bill Evans Live at Art D'Lugoff's Top of the Gate. The promotional boost provided by the event has been invaluable for the label, which operates on a tight budget and courts a collector's sensibilities. "We plan our releases around Record Store Day," Feldman said. "It's become that significant for us."

But the benefit flows both ways, conferring added legitimacy to the event, as Michael Kurtz, a cofounder of Record Store Day, suggested in an email. "It is not only a great honor to work with Zev, and the folks at Resonance Records, but it is also a lot of fun," Kurtz said. "Every year they surpass my wildest expectations with their Record Store Day offerings, but this year is exceptional."

Feldman's background in the record industry has some bearing on his enthusiasm for Record Store Day: Before joining Resonance in 2009, he was in sales and marketing for PolyGram and Universal, working campaigns for blockbuster artists like Shania Twain, Eminem and Andrea Bocelli. His experience with retail and promotion is exhaustive, and he sees Record Store Day as an unmitigated boon.

"It all comes back to the basics with Record Store Day: support your local record shop," he said. "Support brick-and-mortar retail. This is our way of letting them know how much they matter to us."

All of the three new Resonance releases will be available on CD and in digital formats later this year. Here is one exclusive track from each.

Resonance has had enormous success with Evans, a pianist of crystalline touch and influential harmonic insight. For Record Store Day last year, the label released Some Other Time: The Lost Session From the Black Forest, a previously unheard studio session featuring Evans's short-lived trio with Gomez and DeJohnette. Another Time: The Hilversum Concert was recorded in concert two days after the studio session, in Hilversum, Holland, by the Netherlands Radio Union. The depth of rapport between the musicians is remarkable — and as you hear in this version of "Nardis," they really stretch out in performance. (Don't miss the spectacular drum solo.)

Wes Montgomery is another artist closely associated with Resonance: the label first made its mark in 2012 with Echoes of Indiana Avenue, and has released other recordings by the guitarist since. What's striking about Smokin' in Seattle: Live at the Penthouse is its timeline: rather than a peek at his early years, it captures him in full ascendency, on tour in 1966 with pianist Wynton Kelly, bassist Ron McClure and drummer Jimmy Cobb. The title is a nod to Smokin' at the Half Note, a landmark album by Montgomery and Kelly, recorded the previous year. This track, "Jingles," is a trademark original that Montgomery naturally knocks out of the park.

Jaco Pastorius, the mercurial electric bass phenom, is new to the Resonance roster, and in many respects this is the biggest of the three new releases. Truth, Liberty & Soul — Live in NYC: The Complete 1982 NPR Jazz Alive! Recording is a deluxe 3-LP boxed set, with expansive annotation and photographs. It documents a concert at Avery Fisher Hall during the KOOL Jazz Festival, originally broadcast on NPR's Jazz Alive! (but now presented in full, with 40 minutes of previously unheard material). Pastorius is working with his Word of Mouth big band, which includes close compatriots like trumpeter Randy Brecker and drummer Peter Erskine. (For a portion of the concert, harmonica virtuoso Toots Thielemans joins as a featured soloist.) This track, "Invitation," is the opening salvo, practically exploding with kinetic energy.

The care that Resonance has put into these releases is obvious, and has become a signature: It's almost a bygone conclusion that these will be among the best-received historical jazz albums of 2017. For a certain breed of music fan, they'll be a strong incentive to head to a local record store on Sunday.

For his part, Feldman will be at Joe's Record Paradise in Silver Spring, Maryland — a shop that he has frequented since he was a kid. He'll be promoting the Thelonious Monk release along with his Resonance titles, and general soaking up the atmosphere. "For years, I combed through this place," he said. "This store was my education."

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